Movers and shakers with the West Coast Senior Hockey League hope to find parity as the three-team league fights to stay afloat.
A league formed for the purpose of providing local hockey players a chance to play the game for fun instead of expecting financial reward is still trying to find a winning formula.
However, some of those with a keen interest in the survival of the league say it is not an easy task to accomplish even when everybody acknowledges that parity doesn’t exist in the league this year.
The prime example being the Stephenville Jets, who sit at the bottom of the pack and have been victims of several big blowouts this year.
Jets general manager Art Barry, in a story published in The Star on Wednesday, said senior hockey won’t survive if league organizers don’t find a way to make all three teams competitive.
Barry believes a player draft would be a first step in putting all teams on a more even keel with a chance of fans enjoying some competitive hockey in all rinks.
Royals president Dennis Waterman said there’s no question the league needs parity to stay afloat and league officials have been working internally to level the playing field.
It’s a topic that comes up in discussion around the table every year and league officials try to do what they can to make all teams competitive, but Waterman said it’s not an easy task.
Waterman believes the issue lies with the individuals who are looking for a game of senior hockey. He said a lot of players don’t want to play outside their own area because they don’t want to be travelling alone to join their team on the weekend.
He said the league tried an informal draft last year to try to make it better.
“Even if you choose players from outside your own area to play with your team there’s no guarantee they’re going to want to go there,” Waterman said.
Waterman knows Corner Brook is the least affected by the issue because it has the luxury of having a bigger area from which to draw players.
He said the Royals are always willing to work with the other teams to make things better because there won’t be any hockey to watch if all teams don’t have enough players to provide fans with a competitive game on a consistent basis.
It is a concern also felt in Port aux Basques where the Mariners have been drawing good crowds with a winning product on the ice.
Port aux Basques Mariners president Shannon Battiste said player commitment is a big part of the parity. He said a lot of players have work or family commitments that come first, making it tough getting guys to play when you really need them.
He doesn’t blame players for not playing when they have other commitments, but he believes the league has to do what it can to make it competitive across the board.
“It’s too late in the year to try and fix it now, but it’s another stepping stone going forward to make it better for next year,” he said.
He is leaning toward thinking a draft would be something to consider, but then he figures the issue teams will run into will be dealing with guys not willing to play for the team who drafted them.
He figures it has a lot to do with commitment.
This year, he said, the Stephenville Jets may be the weak link, but he believes they could have been a formidable opponent if the team had everybody signed to cards in the lineup all year.
“We’re just going to have to bite the bullet and help each other,” he said.